1991 September Kerrang! (359)

Thank you to Kathie Davis for the transcript

NOW THAT’S BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIC!

 

After a long series of wrangles with their former record company EMI, the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS are back! They’re back with a new Rick Rubin-produced LP (‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic’), a new label (Warner Bros), a new ‘relaxed’ 70’s glow’ to their music and a more mellow attitude.  That is, they were feeling mellow before STEFFAN CHIRAZImet ‘em at mainman ANTHONY KIEDIS’ Hollywood home and started dragging out the details of the past year’s traumas – and then the knives were really unsheathed…

 

THE RED Hot Chili Peppers aren’t something that was created for the printed word.  The Red Hot Chili Peppers are something you’ve felt throbbing through your walls for the past eight years, a band who ride waves of abundant endless energy.  The Peppers don’t have a set theory for getting there, they just do it.

‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic’ is the nearest to a warm ‘70s pump than you’ll have heard in the ‘90s or ‘80s, and it cruises on sleazy, plinky, dreamy, groovy thrusts of meaty drive.  There’s certainly been some input from the world’s most irreverent producer and talent Rick Rubin.  But the key to his album is chemistry, and in the last two years the Chilis have found theirs bubbling on Bunsen overtime.

That they shut out the whole world to record this record doesn’t hurt any either, locking themselves away in a ‘20s mansion out on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and ignoring pretty much every bastard they could.  Jimi Hendrix stayed there once and the Beatles may have taken their first hits of LSD within those walls.

The band are more press tolerant and less sarcastic than of old when we meet up at Anthony Kiedis’ home.  Chad Smith is as friendly as always, the proverbial easy-going guy; John Frusciante isn’t nearly as caustic or leery as before; but I still can’t get a fix on Kiedis and which mask he’s wearing at any given time… and then there’s Flea.

As Leialoha took solo shots Flea was being Flea: screaming, leering, cavorting, grunting, groaning, spazzing a bass-box of taut muscles, tattoos and flexi-faces.  I imagine exorcisms are made of this stuff.  Then he changes pitch suddenly to sound like a burst appendix before mellowing down as the shutter clicks one last time.

THE MURMUR of an old ‘70s funky sound creeps inside and the room is dominated by huge pieces of explosive art and a pool table.  The scene is as laid-back and relaxed as the album.

Flea: “Where we recorded really relieved a lot of the tension that usually happens when you do a record.  When we recorded in this house we were also living together, which made for a really relaxed environment, and that was the key to the album.  The key to being a great band or a great musician is to be able to relax enough so you can be aware of what’s going on around you and it can flow through you and you can pick up all the energy.”

Is this something the Chili Peppers had fantasized about being able to do?

It’s not like that we sat around always thinking, ‘Oh, this’d be a great thing to do.  I hope we can do this one day’.” Energizes Flea, “but Rick (Rubin) suggested recording in a house and we thought it was a great idea, found the house and did it.  It made us much more able to focus on the music as opposed to those outside influences that might tighten us up or make us think about other things than the music.”

HAVING SPENT years as broke indie heroes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are suddenly talk-of-the-town material, with their financial details the cause of speculation and their general hipness having reached all-time highs amongst the lows of the industry.

“Making money’s made it easier,” says Flea bluntly.  “It’s made it easier to just play music and not worry about the things that can get in the way.”

What about all the butt-kissers?

“That comes on all levels.”

“What you’re talking about,” continues Kiedis, “is the whole rigmarole when we decided that we wanted to get off EMI and go to another record company.  With that came the plethora of very willing and able record companies, and beyond all the money bullshit and schmoozing, the most important thing for us was to find a label that understood us, believed us, would give us 100 per cent creative control and back us all the way.  Which was something we’d never experienced with EMI.

“Having been on the road for two years, as a band we realized that the next record we were getting ready to create would be… very special.

“We didn’t want to waste it on a company that wouldn’t understand it, and we knew that would be the case with EMI, so our main objective was to give this next record to a company that we believed in and that believed in us.  Along with that came a lot of dough and a lot of schmoozing, and we ended up with Warner Bros.

“It would’ve been a disaster and a shame to have given this piece of music, of which we’re incredibly proud, to a record label like EMI.”

“A suck-ass label,” chimes in Flea.  “Now we’re at Warner Bros the grass is definitely greener on the other side of the fence!  The people are nicer, they care more, they think about the music, they care about the music, they’re prepared to work with us and all that shit.”

WAS IT a problem of them simply not understanding what the Chili Peppers do?

Flea:  “It’s beyond not understanding—it’s not giving a f**k.”

Frusciante agrees. “It’s not as if a record company has to understand your music, but they should be good at selling it!”

With all due disrespect one can’t really expect worthwhile artistic judgments from labels whose basic job is to sell, sell, sell.

Flea: “Obviously it’s a business thing, selling a record, but a company’s more likely to put their all into selling a record if they’re into it musically.”

Anthony Kiedis slides in with a gem: “You look at Mo Ostin (Warner Bros honcho) as someone who signed Jimi Hendrix to Reprise, and then you look at Sal Lacotta from EMI who signed Roxette, and you know there’s a slight difference in artistic integrity going on there!

“The roster that Warner Bros has always had has always been a roster of beautiful artists.  The President of Warner Bros Lenny Waronker called me up to tell me how much he liked the album.  The only thing we ever got from Sal Lacotta was a negative shine off his bald head and some goofy meetings.”

Love doth not flow over.

Let’s talk about getting together with Rick Rubin, a gathering of the five most irreverent non-industry-etiquette-concerned people I can think of.

“Rick is a genius who turned out to be the ultimate producer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” states Kiedis.  “He’s the master chess player and we’re the little psychedelic chess pieces, and even though we wrote all the songs his input, his little buffings and polishings and shavings and trimmings, had a very profound effect on what we did.”

Where did you two connect best?

Flea:  “The thing with Rick is that as much as he comes from pretty much defined genres like rap music and real hard Metal, he knows what he likes.  And whether we have different opinions over different music, he doesn’t go into analyzing something, he just knows that he likes it from the feel he gets from it.  He liked us, he liked the music, the songs and it turned out really cool.”

I’M STILL searching for one hook that reeled the two parties together.  Was there any one thing?

“It’s indefinable,”  affirms Kiedis.  “It’s as much a feeling we got from being around him and the feeling we got from being around him and the feeling that he gave us when we were working that made us really comfortable.  What you were talking about earlier, this record seeming relaxed, is the hugest compliment you could give us – which isn’t to confuse relaxation with lack of energy, because there are moments on this record when it’s got as much energy as lighting.

“When Rick Rubin was sitting in the control room he was very relaxed and that helped to make us feel that way.  He doesn’t say a lot of unnecessary bullshit, and when he does have something to say it’s usually pretty helpful.”

One thing about the album in its warmth and ‘70s glow.

Flea butts in:  “That has a f**k of a lot to do with Brenden O’Brein who was engineering and works with Rick on a lot of stuff.  He’s a great engineer who’s not caught up in the technical aspects of recording so much that it interferes with the music.  There’s nothing worse than getting psyched up to play something then having someone who has to twist knobs for an hour!”

Kiedis: “For the Red Hot Chili Peppers it is vital to have the moment captured.”

LET’S TALK about big ideas and record companies.  Was there always this buzz of aspects and angles?

Flea: “Warner Bros kept their mouths shut in those departments!”

Anthony adds: “We didn’t have one single iota of an A&R suggestion.  Warner Bros has a team of A&R people who didn’t try and mould us into shape, they just let us run free – which is exactly what we needed.  Whereas with EMI we were constantly dealing with measly bastards who were trying to slip their two cents’ worth in, which were unnecessary and unwanted.”

How does someone ’court’ the Red Hot Chili Peppers?

“The most f**ked up thing EMI.” continues Frusciante, “was that some of their suggestions weren’t actually suggested to us.  They just edited a bunch of songs!”

Kiedis: “We got courted by a lot of people.  We got together with the presidents of Geffen, CBS, Warner Bros, Island and we went round all these companies and met all the promotion staff, the A&R staff, all the way down to the janitors of those companies.  We wanted to get a feel of where we’d be comfortable and be able to work.

“In the end we decided to go with CBS, which was pretty much a monetary decision, and at the last minute Mo Ostin called us up to congratulate us on the deal we’d made with CBS.  We hadn’t signed anything but we’d taken pictures with everyone and so-on, and that was what revived us.

“Here was the founder of Warner Bros Records, who didn’t get us, calling us up to wish us well on another label, and we just thought this must be a cool guy.  And we stripped down to our scivvys and went swimming in his pool.”

I was going to engage in a long musical discussion but it just never really feels practical.  If I called a song ‘sleazy pinky’ does that make any sense to you?

“It makes plenty of sense,” beams Flea.  “Those are the same terms we talk in!”

Kiedis: “That’s beautiful – it’ll do for me!”

YOU WERE laughing earlier about intellectualizing your songs, so what sort of stuff do people ask you to explain?

Flea: “Just obvious questions like, ‘What was going on in your head when you wrote this or those lyrics?’ or, ‘How did you go about coming up with that idea?’  It’s not only ridiculous to try and break it down and intellectualize, it’s impossible.”

Is it hard for people to accept that RHCP work without a real structure?

Frusciante: “It is, because the way things are set up it forces people to think in ridiculous and perverse structures.  The general concept of scribbling little things on a piece of paper describing music is completely absurd.”

But it’s great when it actually works…

Kiedis: “The record was written in every imaginable possible way, from Flea sitting home with his daughter on his lap and his bass in his hand coming up with beautiful things, to being on an airplane coming from Japan to London sitting there writing ideas.

“The main way we wrote this record is by being a band, spending three tears living together, playing live on stage and rehearsing every day when we got off the road.

“There’s no formula, it’s just knowing each other; it comes from understanding where we all come from and making sure everybody has the space to express themselves individually and as a unit at the same time.”

Flea confirms: “As much as we all come up with our own parts it’s all about making it work together.  “It has everything to do with the other people in the band.  It’s not about one person taking control of a song or idea, it’s about us feeding off each other and inspiring each other to do what we do.”

AND NEVER forget that when you think of the Red Hot Chili Peppers; brotherhood, music, togetherness, making it work as one.  Try not to think too much about the other things you hear much more about in the general media, like their money, their sexual energy, their charges of rape and all the other stuff that’s circulated in this past 12 months.

Anthony Kiedis charges in: “There are no rapists in this band, there are no criminals in this band, there are just really beautiful-hearted people.

“If we get caught up in society’s sick ways of dealing with creative individuals then it’s really a nuisance.  They’re people who just have to be themselves for the rest of their lives while we get to travel all over the world playing our music for people like to hear it…”

Flea: “F**k’ em!”

Kiedis:  “…Personally I spent almost no energy paying attention to that bullshit.  The money is secondary.  Of course it’s nice to have it and to be able to look after your family and live in the lap of comfort, but the only thing that matters is the music we play.  As soon as this record comes out people will be forced to listen to nothing but the music and all the other stuff will fade away.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band who have always talked of love and sex in a free-flowing way, are simply caught in a world where you don’t talk openly about that sort of stuff’.

Kiedis: “That’s their problem, not our problem.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers seem less angry, more mellow yet more powerful than ever before; a weird collection of feelings.

“There’s different ways of expressing anger of happiness or frustration,” Flea continues.  “I don’t think we’ve backed down off our stance of anything we’ve believed in, we’ve just fortified it, and a sign of real strength is gentleness.  You can’t, as we said earlier, mistake relaxing for lack of intensity.”

The kings of free-flowing aural motherf**king love-sucking body pumping bumping and grinding and loving are back.  And the Red Hot Chili Peppers want you to slip into their groove in just the same way they’ll slide into yours.

2 Responses to 1991 September Kerrang! (359)

  1. Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic blog.Much thanks again.

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